I currently have four research projects underway:
The Saw and the Seed: Forestry & the Politics of Conservation in Colonial Korea (under contract with the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books Series, University of Washington Press)
A brief overview of the origins and findings of the project can be read here.
My current book project examines Japanese efforts to understand, modernize, rehabilitate, exploit, and showcase Korea’s forests during the period of colonial rule (1910-1945). In addition to broadening the scope of environmental histories of East Asia, this study draws upon a wide range of hitherto unexplored Japanese- and Korean-language archival sources to illustrate how resource management, state-sponsored science, and ideas about conservation took shape in Japan’s colonial territories. In particular, I argue that the forestry enterprise in colonial Korea was as concerned with the seed as it was with the saw: it placed forest regeneration and conservation at the very heart of its efforts to modernize the Korean landscape and the ecological sensibilities of its inhabitants. Driven by utilitarian concerns about resource scarcity, a growing empire-wide demand for Korea’s forest products, and fears of cascading environmental degradation, foresters dispatched from the so-called “green archipelago” set out to reclaim a peninsula routinely described as “a land of bald mountains and red earth.” But forest reclamation in Korea was far from benevolent or benign: it siphoned off forestland to Japanese corporations, cut off local communities from woodlands that had long sustained them, and placed vast tracts of commercially viable forests under state control. Reforestation, in other words, was a process rife with conflict and fraught with contradiction. By chronicling the vicissitudes of this intensive, contested, and largely forgotten forestry project, The Saw and the Seed offers a path-breaking case study in the promise and perils of natural resource management as it took shape in Japan’s empire.
The Ondol Problem and the Politics of Efficiency
I'm also conducting research into the ondol -- the heated floor cum cooking stove system conventional to Korean dwellings -- as a site of contestation over forestry policy, assimilation, and natural resource conservation in colonial Korea. This research draws largely from the writings of Japanese and Korean foresters, doctors, architects, and government officials, all of whom sought to rationalize fuel consumption so as to modernize the Korean home and curb deforestation. By tracing the contours of debates about efficient heating practices in colonial Korea, this project seeks to shed light on often-conflicting perceptions of waste, conservation, and ecological modernity in colonial Korea.
Prospecting the Ruins: The History, Memory, and Visual Culture of the Japan Air Raids
An ongoing collaboration with Cary Karacas, a geographer at CUNY Staten Island, on the firebombings of Japanese cities during WWII. Having previously written about the cartography and photography of the strategic bombing of Japan, we are now undertaking research for a book entitled Prospecting the Ruins. Supported by an ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship, this project examines the visual culture of the firebombing of urban Japan as revealed through five principal sets of images generated by the air war in the Pacific: maps, photographs, cartoons, films, and art.
Hotly Debated Ice: Scholar-Alpinism and the Great Glacier Debate in Modern Japan
A collaborative project with mountaineering scholar and Nihon Hyakumeizan translator Martin Hood on the foundation of the Japan Alpine Club (Nihon Sangakukai) as related to the evolution and professionalization of the geophysical sciences in the late Meiji period.